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Helvetica

Complements & Alternatives

Part 1: Complements
Combining Type With Helvetica

HE L VET I CA
combining type with helvetica

Introduction
We asked experts we admire to round up typefaces that share a common use, style, or concept. Indra Kupferschmid is a German typographer and writer who lives in Bonn and teaches in Saarbrcken at the French border. As co-author of Helvetica forever, Indra is often asked what typeface to combine with the worlds most famous font. As Indra puts it, Helvetica is often described as the tasteless white rice among typefaces: satisfies easily, cheap and fast. But the good thing is, you can take the design into different directions with the sauce and side dishes (the typefaces you pair with Helvetica). Indra shares her favorite Helvetica companions with the following guidelines in mind: Focusing on contrast makes combining fonts easier. Better not pair Helvetica (or other Neo-Grotesques) with another sans serif (like a Humanist Sans). Instead, choose a serif or a slab. Transitional and Modern (bracketed) serifs work quite well with Helvetica. So do most Garaldes like Garamond it all depends on what kind of atmosphere youre aiming for. Browse the list of ideas below, or look for faces with broad proportions, a large x-height, or similar characteristics, like an uppercase R with a vertical tail.

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Neutral Fonts
If youre looking for a text face and want to stay consistent by emphasizing the neutral, flawless feel of the Grotesk, try a Transitional serif. As their name suggests, these even, regularly proportioned typefaces sit on the fence neither too playful nor too aloof.

Arnhem Designed by Fred Smeijers for a Dutch newspaper, Arnhems strong color lets it perform very well at small sizes and in less than optimal printing conditions.

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neutral fonts

ff Clifford

Farnham

itc Charter

Romain BP

Informal Fonts
Sturdy serifs and a relatively low stroke contrast invoke a more informal atmosphere. Clarendon is the most obvious candidate, but there are others from this category that work equally well.

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informal fonts

RePublic Designed in 1955 for the Czech State Department, Public was a newspaper typeface linked to Communism. Tom Brousil rehabilitated this unique face as RePublic in 2004 and it has become popular in contemporary magazine design. While not technically a Clarendon, RePublic is a square slab with a similarly informal but impactful effect.

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informal fonts

Sutro Jim Parkinsons interest in early slab serifs began in the 1970s when he drew a new version of Egiziano for Roger Black at New West Magazine. The versatile Sutro family has 19 members for text and headline use, adding a modern alternative to existing Clarendons.

Belizio

Schadow

Technical Fonts
Unbracketed slab serifs in the Grotesk style play to Helveticas calculated, technical impression. These faces are the most similar to Helvetica and often share very similar x-height and proportions for better mixing within the same block of text.

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technical fonts

Glypha Adrian Frutigers Univers is the most natural pair for Glypha, but Helvetica plays well with it too.

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technical fonts

Helserif

Serifa

Corporate E

Calvert

Classy Fonts
Want something more formal and austere? The elegant Didones of the late 18th century can make Helvetica feel quite upper crust.

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classy fonts

Walbaum Walbaum is often forgotten among the more common Bodonis and Didots, but its lower stroke contrast makes it a better option for text sizes and its proportions are a better match for Helvetica.

itc Bodoni

ff Acanthus

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Straightforward Fonts
No-nonsense newspaper serifs and bracketed Moderns echo Helveticas justthe-facts-maam attitude.

Escrow Escrow sets the tone of the front page of The Wall Street Journal. A large family of text and display fonts in various widths, Escrow adds 44 striking options to the designers palette.

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straightforward fonts

Miller

Ingeborg

Centennial

Human Fonts
For a warmer, more friendly touch, choose an open Garalde or a typeface made for books. These are the most readable of the bunch, designed for long passages of text.

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human fonts

Swift Though it was designed at the end of the 1980s, Gerard Ungers most popular design doesnt look more than a day old. Its sharp serifs and open forms counter Helveticas stoic posture to create a more contemporary feeling.

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human fonts

Plantin

Proforma

ff Parable

ff Milo Serif

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Part 2: Alternatives
Alternatives to Helvetica

HE L VET I CA
alternatives to helvetica

Introduction
There are many reasons why Helvetica is so widespread. The most obvious being that a few weights have been bundled with the Mac OS for years. It is arguably the most respectable of the default fonts. But its also used because its a safe, neutral choice. For many purposes, typography is more about content than style. Fans of Beatrice Warde will tell you that typographers should communicate without distraction. Helvetica, with its simple, unadorned forms, is the perfect crystal goblet. Even its ubiquity contributes to its neutrality letters so common they become invisible. But invisibility isnt always appropriate, particularly in advertising or branding where individuality is key. Here we recommend our favorite fonts from the grotesque genre that offer something different from Helvetica (or Arial) whether its style, warmth, or extra features like small caps, figure alternates, and additional widths.

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Cool, Crisp, Clean


Much of Helveticas appeal comes from its cold, almost clinical modernity. Here are some related sans serif fonts that exude that vibe.

Groteska
Univers Univers is widely considered Adrian Frutigers masterpiece. Its 27 styles go from Ultra Condensed Thin to Extra Extended Black, but still give an impression of steadiness and homogeneity when combined. Why its not Helvetica In some ways, even more spare (no beards or tails). Uniformity across a broad spectrum of styles.

Groteska
Heldustry In 1978, prolific photo type designer Phil Martin added just the right touch of Eurostiles squareness to Helvetica and created a new font for a cable TV news network. Why its not Helvetica Youve probably never seen it. And for those who are looking for something unique, that can be the most important characteristic.

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Groteska
Paralucent The first text sans serif from Rian Hughes, a master of stylized display faces. It still shows signs of his distinctive hand, from the big round i dots and wedge terminals to the daring lowercase g. Paralucent was designed to be more consistent than Helvetica, and a solid modern workhorse of a font, elegant enough for headline and robust enough for text. Why its not Helvetica A single-story a and tailed l. Vintage Deutsch cachet.

Groteska
Neuzeit S Wilhelm C. Pischners Neuzeit Grotesk preceded Helvetica by more than 30 years. The more humanist Neuzeit S was introduced by Linotype-Hell AG in 1966, intended for large bodies of text. Why its not Helvetica A gentle, almost Avenir-ish geometry.

Groteska
Maxima In 1990 Gerd Wunderlich revisited Univers and created this slightly more contemporary option.

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Groteska
FF Schulbuch A series of fonts based on the historical textbook types used in Northern and Southern Germany, and Bavaria. The Nord (North) variant is the closest relative of Helvetica. Why its not Helvetica A single-story a and tailed l. Vintage Deutsch cachet.

Getting Warmer
Helvetica is often classified as a neo-grotesque. Here are some older grotesques marked by idiosyncrasies and irregularities. They feel warmer, less manufactured better suited for delivering subject matter that requires a more handcrafted vehicle.

Groteska
Basic Commerical Appearing in hot metal at the turn of the 20th century, Basic Commercial (like Akzidenz-Grotesk) is based on designs which influenced all the modern grotesques that followed. Basic Commercial was distributed for many years in the United States under the name Standard Series which is seen most notably in Massimo Vignellis signage for the New York City subway. Why its not Helvetica Angled stroke endings (S, C, e) open up the counters and add life. Taller ascenders lend elegance.

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Groteska
ff Bau Helvetica is cold and calculated, but its roots lie in much quirkier material. Its earliest direct ancestor was first introduced around 1880. Christian Schwartz updated the family for contemporary needs without rationalizing away the spirit and warmth of the original. Why its not Helvetica A double-storey g. Lowercase a keeps its tail in all weights. Optional oldstyle figures.

Groteska
Folio Designed by Konrad F. Bauer and Walter Baum, and released in several weights and widths by the Bauer Type Foundry from 1956 to 1963. Why its not Helvetica Delightfully irregular, a type that shows signs of rough cut metal.

Groteska
Venus Created in the early 1900s, Venus precedes Helvetica by many years. Some sources note that it was designed for German map production. Why its not Helvetica Antique, not modernist. Very idiosyncratic for that vintage hot metal look.
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Groteska
Monotype Grotesque A British type from the 1900s, MT Grotesques ten very different styles read like a timeline of grots to come Bell Gothic, Trade Gothic, Helvetica but none of those match its warmth and character. Why its not Helvetica Delightfully irregular, a type that shows signs of rough cut metal.

Groteska
ARS Region A brand new release from a brand new foundry, ARS Type, Region is Helvetica with trademark Shamal oddities. Why its not Helvetica Would be cold and crisp if it werent for the soft stroke connections on letters like the G, t, and k. A lowercase g that takes FF Metas lead. Small caps available.

Groteska
Adesso French designer Thierry Puyfoulhouxs rounded sans is the furthest from Helvetica on this list, but its definitely soft and warm while maintaining the basic grotesque lettershapes

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Groteska
Titling Gothic The newest family on our list is also the most extensive. FB Titling Gothic is an immense series of nearly fifty styles inspired by that century-old favorite ATF Railroad Gothic (see also: Wilma). Why its not Helvetica Every possible width you could need for setting headlines. Antique, American flavor. Very little stroke modulation, even in heavy and wide styles.

The Timeless Classic


Despite all the substitutes, sometimes the old reliable is still the best bet. Neue Helvetica (German for New) is the most complete & usable set of Helv. fonts.

Groteska
Neue Helvetica Despite all the substitutes, sometimes the old reliable is still the best bet. Neue Helvetica (German for New) is the most complete and usable set of Helvetica fonts. Over the years, the Helvetica family was expanded to include many different weights, but these were not as well coordinated with each other as they might have been. In 1983, D. Stempel AG redesigned and digitized the Neue Helvetica typeface for Linotype and made it a self-contained font family.

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Further Reading FontShop Fundamentals 2 Alternatives to Helvetica Erik Spiekermanns Typo Tips The Right Font for the Job Type Anatomy

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